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A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown | [Julia Scheeres]

A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown

In A Thousand Lives, the New York Times best-selling memoirist Julia Scheeres traces the fates of five individuals who followed Jim Jones to South America as they struggled to first build their paradise, and then survive it. Each went for different reasons - some were drawn to Jones for his progressive attitudes towards racial equality, others were dazzled by his claims to be a faith healer. But once in Guyana, Jones' drug addiction, mental decay, and sexual depredations quickly eroded the idealistic community.
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Publisher's Summary

They left America for the jungles of Guyana to start a better life. Yet what started as a Utopian dream soon devolved into a terrifying work camp run by a madman, ending in the mass murder-suicide of 914 members in November 1978.

In A Thousand Lives, the New York Times best-selling memoirist Julia Scheeres traces the fates of five individuals who followed Jim Jones to South America as they struggled to first build their paradise, and then survive it. Each went for different reasons - some were drawn to Jones for his progressive attitudes towards racial equality, others were dazzled by his claims to be a faith healer. But once in Guyana, Jones' drug addiction, mental decay, and sexual depredations quickly eroded the idealistic community.

For this groundbreaking book, Scheeres examined more than 50,000 pages of newly released documents that the FBI collected from the camp after the massacre - including diaries, crop reports, and letters that were never sent home - as well as hundreds of audiotapes of Jones addressing his group.

Scheeres's own experience at a religious boot camp in the Dominican Republic, detailed in her unforgettable debut memoir Jesus Land, gives her unique insight into this chilling tale.

Haunting and vividly written, A Thousand Lives is a story of blind loyalty and daring escapes, of corrupted ideals and senseless, searing loss.

©2011 Julia Scheeres (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Chilling and heart-wrenching, this is a brilliant testament to Jones's victims, so many of whom were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time." (Publisher's Weekly)

"Scheeres shows great compassion and journalistic skill in reconstructing Jonestown’s last months and the lives of many Temple members (including a few survivors).... [A] well-written, disturbing tale of faith and evil." (Kirkus)

"Julia Scheeres' A Thousand Lives... tells the tragic tale of Jonestown - in its way, a peculiarly American apocalypse." (Los Angeles Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Rachel Atascadero, CA, United States 10-23-11
    Rachel Atascadero, CA, United States 10-23-11

    I own a small shop selling custom/costume Jewelry. I love to listen to audio books while I create jewelry. I love all animals and get very upset when they aren't treated well, even in fiction.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Unforgettable"

    I began reading true crime because I wanted to know the story behind the sound bite headlines. This book delivers that and more. To listen is to watch something that began as a positive turn slowly into a horror.
    I never knew or heard about the positive beginnings, or about the courage of so many who were involved...
    Not for the faint of heart, the volience described is gut wrenching. Like reading about the Titanic, one wants to somehow rush in and re-write history and change the ending.
    I'll never forget it, or the people I "met" while reading this.
    This is a chapter in history that must not be forgotten, it has so much to teach us all.

    43 of 43 people found this review helpful
  •  
    skyla sydney, Australia 11-03-11
    skyla sydney, Australia 11-03-11 Member Since 2011
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    "A haunting tale"

    If not for the fact that it is a true story you would never believe this haunting tale. The horror of it belies belief but we all know these events did take place. This book allows you to live inside this cult and see it from their perspective. It follows the stories of several people and how they came to be part of this ordeal. It is horror at it's most evil, yet told in a dignified and intelligent way. No sensationalism here, just the facts in a calm, calculated manner. This book will stay with you long after you are finished and perhaps you to will give your children an extra hug at night all the while sparing a thought for the hundreds of murdered Jonestown children.

    Noone sets out to join a cult. These people dreamed of a better life and were mislead and lied to until it was too late to turn back. How could it go so wrong? This book reminded me of "Lord of the flies". Of how in the right inviroment we can all turn into brutal savages.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Russell Keswick, ON, Canada 12-15-11
    Russell Keswick, ON, Canada 12-15-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Experiencing a New Emotion at the End of a Book"

    What are the typical responses you feel after finishing a book? If you are like me you have had awe or happiness after finishing an uplifting story, engagement after an informative one, and after a difficult or boring one a sense of relief for getting to the end.

    This is the first time I have felt extreme anger as the "One Thousand Lives" story wound down. On finishing the tale at midnight, my state of mind was set to fuming for an hour and sleep eluded me.

    Jim Jones was a charlatan and a liar. Through trickery and manipulation he was able to distort many people’s noble aspirations into a grisly society. My heart went out to those who started to realize the truth about Jones. They were trapped in an isolated community by a majority of blind acolytes. Although we all know the ending of this story of one thousand lives where over 200 innocent children were murdered in Jonestown, the author skillfully fills in the details with important firsthand information.

    It is ironic that the biggest lesson from this riveting book was hung above Jim Jones throne on that fateful day. "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it". So a banner of wisdom participated in an orgy of stupidity by some intelligent people.

    Still, I am convinced that the majority of listeners will take the appropriate lessons away from this highly recommended read.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason Virden, MB Canada 12-14-11
    Jason Virden, MB Canada 12-14-11 Member Since 2011
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    "Compelling"
    Would you listen to A Thousand Lives again? Why?

    No. The subject is distressing.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Tommy Bogue. The independent spirit that just can't be repressed, terrified or tortured away. Went on to become a positive leader.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The airstrip


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The murder of the children. I wanted to put my fist through the car window.


    Any additional comments?

    I had only seen a 1/2 hr documentary and heard the pop-culture derivations. I had long had an apetite for a deeper look at this descent into madness. This book is a meditation on the gradual corruption of trust to the furthest extreme. I am grateful for the narrator's approach, not trying to 'act' the voices and statements of Jones, but keeping a double narrative distance (female, and unemotive) from a terrible person and subject.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amanda 11-12-11
    Amanda 11-12-11
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    "Fascinating!"

    I couldn't stop listening to this audio book. It was so interesting that I listened to all 11 hours of it in less than 48 hours.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kelley CA, United States 01-02-12
    Kelley CA, United States 01-02-12 Member Since 2006

    Lover of ideas who feels no guilt at all about her pleasures.

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    "A sad and frightening story."

    I was a teen when this happened. I remember the surreal Newsweek cover on our coffee table at home. I thought I had a fairly clear idea of the story, but this book provides many new details. Potential readers should be advised that the events, while interesting, are extremely depressing.
    You might wonder what I was expecting, given that I knew the outcome. I can only say that I wasn't expecting such long and graphic descriptions of horrific child abuse. That part of the puzzle I either didn't know before, or had forgotten. It's awful.
    And the rest is hardly cheerful.
    The book, on the other hand is extremely well done and well read. The author focuses on a few specific members of the People's Temple, shaping the book through them to good effect. The narrator finds the right tone.
    If you can stand it, you'll admire it - I'm sure.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    wayne Mississauga, ON, Canada 01-17-12
    wayne Mississauga, ON, Canada 01-17-12 Member Since 2008
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    "Nauseating...but in a good way"
    Would you listen to A Thousand Lives again? Why?

    I would not listen to it again, but not because it was bad, simply because it was very difficult to listen to the stories, such a brutal end to so many lives. I am glad that I listened to it, it gave me a greater understanding in to an organization that I had dismissed as a bunch of crazed cult members, to actually having understanding and empathy for those involved


    What did you like best about this story?

    How the church was formed in the beginning on what seemed to be true equality for all races, something unheard of in the late 60's and early 70's in secular culture. The idea sounded exciting and enticing during that time. Unfortunately things turned out to be far from equal.


    Which character ??? as performed by Robin Miles ??? was your favorite?

    I had a lot of empathy for the young children and elderly as their plight and hopelessness was described, especially as they tried their best to find happiness in the mundane activities and under the oppression of Jim Jones.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The final murders


    Any additional comments?

    This audiobook seriously impacted me. The story stayed with me very strongly for over a week after I read it in a mere two days. Could not put it down after I started.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Fernanda toronto, ON, Canada 12-13-11
    Fernanda toronto, ON, Canada 12-13-11 Member Since 2011
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    "excellent overview"
    If you could sum up A Thousand Lives in three words, what would they be?

    incredible and hard to believe it happened


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    It is hard to pick only one character


    Have you listened to any of Robin Miles’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, I have not listened to any other performances


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, totally- one does not want to forget any of the characters


    Any additional comments?

    I could not put it down!!!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marion Cronulla, Australia 12-12-11
    Marion Cronulla, Australia 12-12-11

    Am now 80 and been avid reader since childhood. Have 3 children, 7 grandchildren. Narrated Talking Books for Vision Australia 35 yrs.

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    "A sad tale of gullibility and destructive power"

    It was hard to rate this title overall for the following reasons.
    Having read of this tragic occurrence at the time, it was with a feeling of trepidation but also curiosity that I downloaded this book. I cannot recommend it as it was indeed harrowing to hear the facts from the few survivors and tapes of this supposed 'new life' ending in such horror.
    However, I must commend the author and narrator. The story was delivered eloquently by both leaving me with a shattering disbelief that one man could gain so much power then destroy his believers with such cruelty regardless of his addled brain.
    I do feel that the book should be compulsory reading/listening to applicants wishing to join any cult.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julia Fierro 12-15-11

    Author of Cutting Teeth, a novel (St. Martin's Press, 2014)

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    "perfecy book, perfect listen."

    overall, a wonderful listen. skillfully researched and written. i admire the author's ability to capture this world and its bizarre characters with clarity and compassion.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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  • Simon
    Sheffield, United Kingdom
    2/5/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Extremely Chilling"
    What did you like most about A Thousand Lives?

    A very sinister often jaw droppingly chilling story that has obviously been incredibly well researched. I mainly listen to audio books whilst in the car this one in particular seems to have made me drive slower and regret a journeys end - it is that compelling. A credit to Julia Scheeres and Robin Miles who does a great job of narrating.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Despite a bit of a slow start this never really stopped moving me.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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